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Promoting Peace in the Classroom

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“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy winter! I hope that you had a wonderful, peaceful holiday season and are enjoying 2015 as much as we are.

After experiencing all the good will generated during the holidays, thoughts here at NSGT and Summer Institute for the Gifted have turned to considering ways that this spirit can continue into the new year through education. Taking inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King’s wise words above, let’s consider what means we might use in our classrooms to promote peace.

Dr. Maria Montessori’s apt quote, “Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education,” rings true in practice in Montessori schools featuring peace education as a key component of their curriculum. Several practices include: defining the word “peace” with students, including asking them what peace means to them; teaching conflict resolution skills through role-playing; and exploring techniques involving compromise and active listening. One common, often effective, conflict resolution technique involves students sitting in a circle facing each other and using one classroom object, such as a “talking stick”. Whoever holds the “talking” object is allowed to talk, while the remaining participants in the room must remain silent, listening actively. Done well this practice can promote respect for others and reveal the power of listening to help create “win, win” situations.

Another great example of peace education comes from The World Citizen organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota, which was founded in 1972 on the concept that settling enormous global conflicts has to start somewhere, and the best place to start is with children. As a result, World Citizen creates “peace sites” in schools, as well as in other settings, in which members commit to five “Peace Actions”: Seek peace within yourself and others, reach out in service, protect the environment, respect diversity, and be a responsible citizen of the world. Adhering to these tenets, teachers often organize “peace groups” involving 15 to 20 students. Such peace groups have created Meals on Wheels programs, crafted 500 pairs of fleece flip flops for children living in an orphanage in Haiti, and initiated many other peace-based projects.

These are just two of the abundant examples educators have used to inspire in students an active understanding and appreciation of peace. We would love to hear any inspirational examples you may have encountered as a teacher, parent, student, or otherwise.

All the best,

Kevin Wickersham
Academic Director, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)
National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)

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